The keys to self study

1. Have an exciting but specific mission

  • To truly be great at something it has to excite you, otherwise you’ll never stick with it long enough to get through the dip.

  • When the going gets tough it’s useful to remind yourself what you’re trying to achieve and why.

  • Just wanting to improve at something, without a specific objective in mind usually doesn’t work. Most goal setting guidelines will tell you to make sure they’re SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). Nothing amazing was ever done by having goals that were Achievable and Realistic, so we prefer to concentrate on the SMT.

2. Build a curriculum or find one online

  • Having a curriculum that you can work through gives structure to what you’re doing, and also gives you a finish line to work towards.

  • The paradox of choice and analysis paralysis are real things. With the breadth and depth of information available on the internet, you can easily get overwhelmed with the volume of things you don’t know, rather than focusing on what you’re trying to achieve.

3. Set a schedule, and stick to it!

  • Be realistic about how much you can achieve in a day. Setting a schedule that’s overly aggressive will make you resent the sacrifices you have to make to stick with it.

  • Study efficiently. There’s a whole world out there to explore! Better to be focused for 4 hours than day dreaming for 8. 
  • Try and do something every single day. Getting a streak going can help motivate you when you just can’t be bothered to get something done. If you improve just 1% a day at something, in 12 weeks you’ll be 130% better!

4. Be public about your goals

  • People that know what you are trying to achieve, openly or not, will hold you accountable.

  • You may find that a lot of people are skeptical about how realistic it is to study something whilst travelling. This naysaying can have one of two effects on you: either you’ll succumb to their negativity and take a “safer” path, or you’ll be motivated to prove them wrong. This sort of motivation can be extremely powerful. 

5. Exercise and Socialise

  • Exercise is a great way to take a break from study and has real physiological effects on your body that’ll increase your propensity to learn, such as releasing Serotonin, Dopamine, and Endorphins in your body, and reducing the stress hormone, Cortisol.

  • Socialising (in moderation!) is a great way to unwind and truly take your mind off what you're studying. Having unique experiences with a group of friends who share your view of the world can be just the motivation you need to get through that 3 hours of study you've scheduled for the morning.

6. Start before you leave

  • Taking in a new environment, culture, and climate can be exhausting. If you’re trying to understand and learn a brand new skill in parallel to all these it’s probably going to be a step too far. 

  • Starting your curriculum and your schedule before you hit the road reduces the amount of change that your brain has to become accustomed to.
  • It will also ensure the schedule and curriculum you’ve set yourself is realistic. If you can’t stick with it at home, chances are you’re not going to be able to stick with it halfway around the world.